By Mike Collett
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Beleaguered FIFA president Sepp Blatter denied he ran FIFA like a dictatorship on Wednesday but refused to make any comment on his former ally Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned from soccer for life on Saturday on corruption charges.
He also refused to answer criticism from Germany's Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who said in an interview Wednesday that no-one believed Blatter when he said he was trying to clean up the game.
The 75-year-old Swiss also came under attack from former international player Rummenigge, now the president of the influential European Clubs Association (ECA) who told The Guardian newspaper that the time had come to change FIFA's "corrupt leadership."
Blatter, in Rio for Saturday's preliminary round draw for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, refused to comment on what either Bin Hammam or Rummenigge had said.
However, at the end of a long, rambling answer justifying how transparent FIFA was, he was asked about his old friendship with Bin Hammam, who was going to run against Blatter for the FIFA presidency on June 1, before withdrawing his candidature after being accused of bribery charges.
Those charges were upheld by the Ethics Committee on Saturday who banned him from soccer for life.
The friendship between the two men during Blatter's election campaigns of 1998 and 2002 is well documented, but they fell out when Bin Hammam was preparing to challenge Blatter who went on to win a fourth term as president unopposed on June 1.
Blatter said: "I am not alone, I am not a dictator as has been said, I am not alone, I work with my executive committee, with my administration, and with a lot of advisors.
"They know what it means to have transparency on one side, and anti-corruption on the other side. Do not forget that in FIFA we have 300 million people who work directly in football and in 300 million you cannot have only good people.
"But I will not make any comments on the decisions of the Ethics Committee, and the follow-up by the media, and I ask you to understand my situation and let FIFA work in compliance with the strong demand of the FIFA Congress to go forward."
Blatter was also asked to comment on Rummenigge's comments Wednesday that no-one should believe a thing Blatter said.
Rummenigge told The Guardian: "Sepp Blatter is saying he is cleaning up the game, but the fact that no-one believes him, tells you everything you need to know.
"I'm not optimistic because they believe the system is working perfectly as it is. It is a money-machine. It is a nice game but it is decided by people who are corrupt. I am not ready to accept the system as it is and I am not alone."
Blatter, however, refused to be drawn into a debate about what Rummenigge had said.
Asked in the news conference to comment, Blatter said: "Go back to him and ask him what he means. I will not make any comment on what he has said."
FIFA has been in the spotlight for months over bribery and corruption charges with nine members of FIFA's executive either being accused or found guilty of corruption recently.
Before the election last month, Blatter denied FIFA was facing any crisis in its management, but has since signaled plans to form what he has called the "Solutions Committee."
This would consist of outsiders like former U.S. politician Henry Kissinger, opera singer Placido Domingo and former Dutch great Johann Cruyff to help monitor FIFA's actions from an unbiased, external viewpoint.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Dave Thompson)